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2.3 INFLUENCE OF OTHER AUTHORS

Raymond Chandler, the greatest author of hard-boiled detective fiction, excelled at writing and creating his own literary style. He was influenced by many literary styles and authors. However, two authors of hard-boiled detective stories influenced his work most. These were his colleagues from Black Mask, Dashiell Hammett and E. S. Gardner. They brought him towards the criminal environment and Hammett, besides, showed him the way of using common tough language from the streets. It is important to underline the influence of his contemporary Ernest Hemingway [1899 – 1961] and his short stories as well.

Both Hemingway and Chandler were influenced primarily by the work of muckrakers and their use of objectivity. However, more similarities between the work of Hemingway and Chandler can be depicted. When we look at the formal structure of their narratives, they both use a narrator, i.e. they tell the story in the first person, I-narrative. In Hemingway`s short story “Fifty Grand” the narrator is Jerry, the trainer and best friend of the main hero, Jack, a boxer. On the other hand, Chandler usually uses the main hero as the narrator, such as in Marlowe`s novels. They use objective style and it is obvious that they know perfectly well what they write about. Hemingway sets his short story in boxing environment and he shows great knowledge of the process of the matches. He describes in details weighing of boxers before the match, the process of preparing before the match and also the way of bandaging boxers` hands: “Jack puts his thumb through the slit in the bandage and then wrapped his hand nice and smooth. I taped it around the wrist and twice across the knuckles.” [FG 139] It could be compared to the way Chandler, Marlowe, reconstructs how things could happen:

I looked across to the lighted beach club. From its upper windows a man with a good night glass could probably cover this spot fairly well. He could see a car come and go, see who got out of it, whether there was a group of men or just one. Sitting in a dark room with a good night glass you can see a lot more detail than you would think possible. [FML 207]


Hammett`s ability to describe criminal work in details is showed in his The Maltese Falcon when his private eye, Sam Spade, searches a flat.

When we focus on the use of linguistic forms, we find out Hemingway uses common language of common people as well. He uses similar slang expressions, such as ‘dough’, ‘grand’ or ‘buck’, same as Chandler. Hemingway uses simile as well but not in such a great amount as Chandler. Above all, his similes used in “Fifty Grand” are not so witty as the Chandler`s: “‘He`s stale as poorhouse cake.’” [121] or “Jack was as safe as a church…” [141]. The beauty and wit of simile was brought only by Chandler himself. Another linguistic form that was eternalized by Chandler is wisecracks. It is very interesting to look at a form used by Hemingway which could be considered an attempt to create a wisecrack: “Walcott was bleeding bad and leaned his nose on Jack`s shoulder so as to give Jack some of it too, …” [FG 141] Readers could hesitate whether it is an attempt at wisecrack or not, but definitely it is a kind of emotionality brought into Hemingway`s brief, objective style [unfortunately not much successful]. Hemingway`s simple and brief style of writing may resemble rather Hammett`s literary style, without poetic insertions, or in Porter`s words ‘chandlerisms’ [105].

Both Hemingway and Chandler focus mainly on the middle class, sometimes with exceptions such as in Chandler`s The Big Sleep with the Sternwoods. This could be also considered the influence of realism and the focus on common people. Characters are most often ordinary workers, barmen and drivers, private detectives with few clients and also gangsters and other criminals. Both authors use also different nationalities to show the real structure of inhabitants of the United States. In their fiction there are usually Afro-Americans, called ‘niggers’, and in Hemingway`s “Fifty Grand” there is even an Irishman, the main hero, and a mention of Jews, called pejoratively ‘kikes’ [116].

Chandler`s novels are full of gangsters and various gamblers or racketeers. Hemingway in his “Fifty Grand” depicts two gangsters, Happy Steinfelt and Lew Morgan, who own a pool-room and try to ‘double-cross’ their boxer [125].

Finally, the main characters, male usually, behave in masculine way and are called macho by Hemingway and private eyes or tough guys by Chandler and Hammett. They are strong, brave, drink a lot, like women and they are not afraid of fight. Chandler distinguished his detective when he changed his general attitude towards women. Marlowe resembles a new tough knight. He keeps his tough attitude and talk, but he hurries to rescue a weak woman, when she deserves it. Such an example can be found in The High Window when Marlowe rescues Merle from exploitation by Mrs. Elizabeth Bright Murdock. Marlowe is described by a doctor as a “shop-soiled Galahad” [1136], who was in fact a knight of King Arthur`s Round Table. Marlowe helps Merle who looks a bit like “an anaemic person” and whose “whole face had a sort of off-key neurotic charm that only needed some clever makeup to be striking” [990]. Female characters, who are not usually worth rescuing and who very often become murderers or at least the cause of murder, are pretty, well-dressed, wear make-up and they are first of all sexy and cute. Hemingway`s female characters are pretty, well-dressed and sexy as well, but they are also frivolous and independent, both in drinking and sex. Hemingway was able to use tough talks as well, especially in his short story “The Killers”, which is, as the title suggests, based on tough guys, criminals, gangsters or ‘killers’.

Hemingway has a lot of features in common with Chandler, but there are also some differences that are obvious at first sight. It is mainly the structure of Hemingway`s narratives. He uses great amount of fast dialogues, direct speech, and he avoids descriptions of environment, situation and plot in general. Such a structure is sometimes confusing and the reader is lost in the trap of dialogues. Few descriptions are oriented particularly on the action and on the plot as well. Any detailed portrayal or poetic depiction is absent: “We rode down in the elevator and went out through the lobby, and got in a taxi and rode around to the Garden. It was raining hard but there was a lot of people outside on the streets.” [FG 137] The description is simple, brief and dry. It lacks emotions and describes only one action after another. A similar approach can be also depicted in Hemingway`s description of a fight, boxing, where he shows action after action without any subjective comments: “Walcott came toward him and thy touched gloves and as soon as Walcott dropped his hands Jack jumped his left into his face twice. There wasn`t anybody ever boxed better than Jack.” [FG 140] The reader learns nothing about the boxer`s feelings, fears and thoughts. Moreover, the reader is not even amused with any witty remarks. Hemingway strictly obeys the rules of muckrakers and focuses rather on the art of fast dialogues.

Chandler shows ambiguous feelings towards Hemingway, particularly in his novel Farewell, My Lovely. Chandler uses the name Hemingway as a swear-word. Marlowe calls a cop Hemingway, and he characterizes the cop as “the kind of cop who spits on his blackjack every night instead of saying his prayers” [274]. When Marlowe is asked what kind of person is “this Hemingway”, he answers: “A guy that keeps saying the same thing over and over until you begin to believe it must be good.” [278] I suggest Chandler refers to Hemingway`s use of repetition. On the other hand, Chandler seems to get inspired by Hemingway`s repetitive style. In Farewell, My Lovely Chandler uses repetition as well:

I thought of dead eyes looking at a moonless sky, with black blood at the corners of the mouths beneath them. I thought of nasty old women beaten to death against the posts of their dirty beds. I thought of a man with bright blond hair who was afraid and didn`t quite know what he was afraid of, who was sensitive enough to know that something was wrong, and too vain or too dull to guess what it was that was wrong. I thought of beautiful rich women who could be had. I thought of nice slim curious girls who lived alone and could be had too, in a different way. I thought of cops, tough cops that could be greased and yet were not by any means all bad, like Hemingway. ... [329]


Chandler could also be compared to another great author of the twenties, Francis Scott Fitzgerald [1896 – 1940]. As Dennis Porter suggests the most striking resemblance can be found in The Great Gatsby and Farewell, My Lovely [107]. Both novels are tales “of old-fashioned romance” where the main character, Nick Carraway or Moose Molloy, longs for and quests for his love, Daisy or Velma, who does not deserve it. In Chandler`s story the denouement is further more dramatic as Velma shoots Molloy and then, to save her present husband, shoots herself. Daisy had no such love in herself. When we compare the work of Fitzgerald to the work of Chandler, a common theme can be revealed; it is the American Dream. Fitzgerald describes American Dream fulfilled within the high class and also the dark side of it, whereas Chandler focuses on the dark side of American Dream within the middle class and its negative impact. Fitzgerald wrote his novels in the twenties and Chandler started to write his novels at the end of the thirties, which definitely influenced their points of view.

Though the influence of Chandler`s contemporaries is remarkable, he created his own specific literary style and in many ways exceeded his colleagues. Above all, it was the influence of era and the important historical events that formed such great author of hard-boiled detective fiction. Nevertheless, Chandler remains the white crow that links high and low literature in such an excellent way.



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